Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ms. Holly Wood, Dr. Ken Will See You Now

Judging by the $71 million that Knocked Up has already taken in at the box office, I'm going to assume that most of you know Ken Jeong as "Dr. Kuni" or "That really funny Asian dude who played Heigl's cootie-checker." And if you're like me, you went home after the movie and immediately Wiki-ed this hilarious actor... which sounds a lot dirtier than I had intended.

Anyway, a little online research and you'll find out that not only has he appeared in some of our favorite shows (The Office, Entourage), but he is also a licensed doctor who balances his medical profession with a flourishing acting and stand-up career.

Yet, clearly, there is one thing missing from his resume - a Silly Pipe Dreams interview. Duh. Thus, Dr. Ken has generously taken the time to answer some questions via email.

Of course, it'll be no coincidence when all of Hollywood comes knocking down Ken's door after being interviewed by the beacon of journalism that is this blog. Sure, he's in the #1 comedy in America right now. And yes, he's in the upcoming Apatow-produced movie, The Pineapple Express. But let's look at the facts. Silly Pipe Dreams interviews J.J. Philbin. Boom, she signs a two-year overall deal with NBC and is made Co-EP on Heroes. It's simple arithmetic: person + SPD interview = bags of money. I really should just interview myself -- "Say Sonny, how does it feel to be so awesome?" "Um, almost as awesome as this interview." "Hey, is that Hollywood dropping off bags of money in the middle of this interview?" "Looks that way." "You're welcome."

Wow, got a little sidetracked there. Hopefully, sarcasm isn't lost in print. Alright, back to Dr. Ken, click on "Continue Reading" below for the interview, link to it on all your blogs, and leave your thoughts and/or shout-outs to Dr. Ken in the comments! Thanks for reading!


First off, congratulations on the success of Knocked Up! You play a doctor in the movie, and you are also a doctor in real life. What is your medical specialty? I have no health insurance.
Internal Medicine (General Practice).

At what point did you start performing comedy? Was it always part of the career-plan growing up?
I was doing theater in college and loved it. I started doing standup in medical school because I no longer had time to act. It was a goal of mine to do comedy, but I didn’t know if I could do it professionally. Eventually, I moved out to L.A. and got on Comedy Central & BET. Now, I’m back to acting again, so everything’s come full circle.

Some traditional Korean parents I know (ahem, mine) disown their kid for at least a few days if the entertainment/comedy route is brought up. How did your family initially react to your comedic pursuits?
I knew I would have their support as long as I was a doctor. :) So, I made sure I kept my grades up and did what was expected of me for them to support me. And it paid off.

What were your first few gigs in the comedy world? Any horror stories?
My very first gig was opening for a Grateful Dead cover band in NC. That pretty much sums it up.

How did The Kims of Comedy come about? Did you, Bobby, Steve and Kevin just decide one night to form an Asian posse of comedic goodness?
We’re all friends who decided to do a DVD together a couple of years ago. We had such a good time doing it, we went on the road for a few dates. It was no master plan. It just happened organically, and we built a following. We still do dates as our schedule allows.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out the trailer for The Kims of Comedy here.]

As a site that also focuses on music, I must mention your “History of Rap” medley. Awesome. In your opinion, what is the best rap song of all-time?
“Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang” - Dr. Dre

What are the last five songs played on your iPod?
John Frusciante, “Time Tonight”
Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Can’t Stop”
Loudon Wainwright III, “Daughter”
Obadiah Parker, “Hey Ya”
David Bowie, “Modern Love”

Tupac or Biggie?

Beatles or Rolling Stones?

Cocaine or Crack?
Just say no.

You’ve said in past interviews that Judd has been a comedic idol of yours, what was it like working with him and the rest of the Apatow-crew? Any lessons learned?
It was incredible. I can’t describe how amazing it’s been working with Judd, Seth, and the whole crew. I am a huge fan of Larry Sanders, Freaks & Geeks, Undeclared and Virgin, so it was very surreal meeting all of them. The most important thing I learned was to keep the comedy as honest as possible and extract humor out of real moments rather than forcing it. I am still learning from those guys how to bring out a blend of truth & funny. I am also getting to know myself better as an actor. It’s a never-ending journey for me to improve as an actor, and I’m enjoying every step of it.

Specifically, a lot has been said about his ability to create a great improv environment. What is his process like, and what is your process like as an actor when you’re thrown into this unique directing style?
Judd is the most amazing director I have ever worked with. He gives you freedom to improvise and explore, but he also guides you along the way. He’ll improvise dialogue with you or throw you a great line, and you try to run with that. It’s a very collaborative process. What amazed me was that he devoted as much attention to the small roles and scenes as he did for the big moments with the bigger stars. People have called him the Scorsese of comedy, and I definitely agree with that. If you watch Goodfellas, you not only remember De Niro’s Jimmy, you also remember Billy Bats. It’s so gratifying that working with one of my heroes has turned out to be a more fulfilling experience than I ever imagined.

It’s been said in an interview that Judd went through 1.6 million feet of film for Knocked Up. Any takes you were proud of that didn’t make the cut? I absolutely loved the “Dr. Kuni Gone Wild” delete scene.
Someone said with Judd, the film is the star. I like that description. Cameras keep rolling to find just the right moments. There were times that Judd would let me go wild just for fun, hence the “Kuni Gone Wild” outtake. That’s the coolest thing about Judd. He gives you unprecedented freedom to improvise to eventually find the truth of the character and will allow you do your thing to get there. In the final print, I feel that every line was something I would say in real life. That was the beauty of it: having fun exploring to reach the natural nuances of the scenes.

You’re also going to be in the Apatow-produced, Rogan-penned project, The Pineapple Express. Has shooting begun on that? Could you tell us a little more about the movie and/or your role?
Pineapple Express is part stoner flick, part action comedy. I play a leader of an Asian drug cartel. I can’t believe all the action sequences I was a part of. I felt like a kid again. There was genuine excitement on the set. I could tell Seth was having the time of his life. There are incredible stunts & explosions, and I gained an appreciation of the work that stuntmen do. An actor can do multiple takes to get it right. For some stunts, you only have one shot at it. It has to be done right the first time. I really wanted to do right by the stuntmen and learned a lot from them.

A lot of the guys in the Apatow-crew are also writers (Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, etc), do you have any plans to write your own movie? Any old screenplays you’re dusting off now with your increased exposure?
My writing partner & I have written a treatment based on my life & experiences. We’re working on it as we speak. I don’t know if it will go anywhere, but I want to continue writing. You never know where it will take you.

You’ve done both TV and features now, do you prefer one over the other?
I have to admit it’s quite a rush to do a film. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. There’s something about the process that’s so liberating. I feel your efforts are appreciated a lot more in film and you can take your time with the process, whereas TV has a much tighter schedule and deadline to get things right.

What were some of your favorite experiences in TV? Any crazy stories involving hookers and Charlie Sheen from your Two and a Half Men spot? Seriously though, I imagine The Office must have been a great time.
The Office was far and away my favorite TV experience. I am a huge fan of both the British & American versions. I was in awe of Steve Carell. Ironically, the director of my episode was Paul Feig, co-creator of Freaks & Geeks; and he was great at enhancing the awkward moments that are The Office’s trademark.

Some people are saying that “comedy is dead” on the small screen, what is your take on the sitcom situation?
I don’t think so at all. There are so many great shows on TV: The Office is still going strong, 30 Rock is my favorite new show. My Name is Earl, Scrubs, they are all well-written and hysterical. Just because their ratings may be a little lower than some reality shows doesn’t mean the quality is bad.

You’ve already worked with some of the best comedic minds out there, who’s left on the dream list of people you’d like to work with?
Honestly, I’ve worked with everybody who I ever wanted to work with. I just want to be happy with my everyday life. I want to continue to have fun working and learning from my peers and heroes.

We’ve talked a lot about comedy here, but I also noticed The Shield (one of my favorite dramas on TV) and Crossing Jordan on your resume. Do you plan on pursuing more dramatic opportunities?
Definitely. I enjoy doing dramas. My approach is the same as comedy: commitment to character, serving the script, finding truth in the scenes.

And I have to ask these two questions before we end this. They’re from my friend, Katie, who is a big fan of yours, and they are very random. 1) How big are your nuts – walnuts or blueberries? And 2) Can someone specialize in geriatric gynecology?

Katie is 28.

1. That’s an incredibly personal question, but blueberries.
2. No.

I’d like to personally apologize for those questions. Also, my racist friend, Chris, thinks we look alike. Do you concur?
No, you’re better looking and taller.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Why, thank you Dr. Ken.]

[EDITOR'S NOTE TO CHRIS: See dude, you're a horrible person. And stop clubbing baby seals. So wrong.]

How delicious is Korean bbq?

Any words of wisdom for aspiring comedians and writers out there?
Persistence is the key; hanging out in the prison yard long enough to get noticed.

Lastly, anything you’d like to say to your current and future fans?
Thanks for all your support. You have already made my dreams come true.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i loved his deleted scene more than the movie!

3:44 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

Great interview! I'm excited to see more of Ken's work. :-)

7:49 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

Sonny, I love you! Almost as much as i love blueberries...

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have not seen the movie, but if it's as funny as that Youtube, I am in.

12:18 PM  
Blogger NYOne said...

Finally saw Knocked Up, and as you predicted, I floved it. And the Kims of Comedy sound amazing. They need Rex Lee (Entourage's Lloyd) to join too!

1:15 PM  
Blogger Captain Oats said...

Hi Anon 3:44,
I don't know if I could say that, but the scene is pretty amazing. I love the fact that he said the word 'smegma'.

Hey Claire,
Thanks! I'm excited as well, I think "Pineapple Express" should be pretty awesome.

Hi Katie,
I love you too. I'm a fan of walnuts.

Hey Anon 12:18,
It is even funnier than the deleted scene. You must go see it this weekend.

Hi NYOne,
I'm glad you loved the movie! I just watched Superbad last night, review forthcoming. =)

1:54 PM  
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